Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Blogger Facing Trial for Criticizing King.

About two weeks ago a blogger in Morocco posted an article in an online magazine, hespress.com, in which he criticized the King for encouraging a culture of dependency where loyalty is rewarded with favors. In the article (in Arabic), titled ‘The King Indulges His Subjects’ Dependency’, Mohamed Erraji, 29, said that “this had made Moroccans a people without dignity, who live by donations and gifts… We need to admit that what has destroyed our country and made it plummet to this embarrassing level in all international rankings, is this economy of dispersing gratuities, which benefits the lucky sons and daughters of this country and overlooks the rest.”

That was on Wednesday, September 3. The following day he was arrested, interrogated for seven hours then released. He was re-arrested on Friday and detained before being brought to trial on Monday, September 8. In a closed trial that lasted 10 minutes, in which he did not have a defense lawyer, Erraji was sentenced to two years imprisonment and a fine of 5000 Dirhams ($625) for “failure of respect due to the King”.

Morocco’s press law strictly forbids criticizing or defaming the King. The press law, which has often been criticized for being overly repressive also includes in its prohibition the offending of Islam, the Royal Family, State Institutions and the Territorial Integrity of Morocco. A fairly nebulous set of laws, if you ask me, that suitably arms a security apparatus which wants to zealously protect the arm that feeds it.

But blinded by their enthusiastic ingratiation to His Majesty, the loyal agents had perhaps underestimated the ability of the blogosphere to effectively spread information. Within moments of Erraji’s incarceration, global media had kicked up a racket through diverse channels in his defense. Much to the chagrin of the Moroccan authorities, the country’s draconian press law was once again in the limelight. Obviously this not being an objective of their bungled smack down on Erraj, someone advised the Appeals Court to release him on bail because in the earlier decision the prosecution “did not comply with certain provisions with regards to the press code”.

Erraji is scheduled to appear in court again today, September 16.

I join the world wide support for Erraji’s blogging freedom and hope that the tribulations with His Majesty’s court jesters will be short-lived.

A petition site for the freeing of Erraji has also been set up.

Notable organizations that have continued to highlight these infringements of journalists and bloggers freedoms include Reporters without Borders, the Union of Independent Journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Committee to Protect Bloggers. The latter in particular is a non-profit corporation “…devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government. We support the right of bloggers, regardless of professional status or engagement in activism, to speak and we do so regardless of their ethnicity, national origin, religion or political beliefs.”

They are encouraging us to give them a shout when we, someone we know, or someone we’ve heard about, has fallen afoul of government authority because of their insistence on speaking their minds on a blog. A visit to their site is quite revealing on just how pervasive these attacks on bloggers by authorities have been in recent times.

Facebook users can join the CPB through the cause page.

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